Robotic Puppies Are Therapeutic Also!


STANFORD, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — A recent peer reviewed study indicates that children who spend time with therapy dogs can lower their stress even more than relaxation exercises. That outcome becomes even more important when the child is in the hospital. But what happens when there are not enough therapy dogs? Ivanhoe introduces us to Otis, Max and Stride, robotic puppies.

Seven-year-old Josh Summitt misses walking his dogs during his time at the hospital. So, Stanford Children’s Health introduced him to the next best thing, robotic puppies.

Josh says, “I kinda felt a little bit nervous to meet the dogs. But after I met them, they were very, very friendly.”

The robotic dogs known as Max, Otis, and Stride are Stanford’s way to curb the anxiety being felt by their young patients.

The endeavor is a collaboration between the university’s robotic students and the hospital’s Chariot Program which seeks out innovations that can help patients.

Gabriel Levine, Engineering Student at Stanford University says, “A lot of robotics technologies get developed in a lab and never has any real impact on the world. But we can see immediately the impact, cheering these kids up.”

While therapy animals have long been known to help reduce pain, anxiety, and depression, doctors are encouraged that the robotic dogs are already showing some of the same benefits.

Ellen Wang, MD, Co-Director Chariot Program says, “It’s amazing. They’re so joyful. I think that having these robotic puppies be a part of our team has allowed us to engage them in a way that was not possible before.”

Teresa Nguyen, MD, Anesthesiologist at Stanford Children’s Health says, “We’ve had experiences in the past where a patient enjoyed hanging out with the robot so much, he almost forgot he was going to surgery, and that’s really powerful.”

Josh’s mom, Amelia Summitt, has also seen a difference.

Amelia says, “And it’s really sparked his curiosity. He can still be seven and be excited and play.”

Stanford Children’s Health is just completing its pilot phase with the robots, and based upon the popular response, this is only the beginning. The Stanford students are now developing a new version of the robot dog that promises to be more agile than before.

Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winters, Producer; Will Drucker, Editor. Joseph Alexander-Short, Videographer



REPORT #3165

BACKGROUND: There are known health benefits such as living a longer and healthier life when it comes to owning a pet. According to one study, older people are more likely to walk with a pet than walk with a friend. Pets are also known to help reduce stress and high blood pressure. Animals help decrease cortisol levels in our body and our blood pressure by about 10 percent. Other studies have found we are 40 percent less likely to have a heart attack or heart disease by owning a pet. Owning a pet is known to help alleviate depression and depression symptoms and decreases the risk of allergies when there is a pet in the house that you have grown up with. One of the most beneficial reasons in owning a pet, especially a dog, is the benefit of low blood sugar detection. There are specially trained dogs who are taught when they smell a change, they alert their owner right away.


ROBOT PET THERAPY: Robot pet therapy is a growing trend that is taking on the form of dogs, cats, and rabbits. These creations are becoming not just toys, but an important therapeutic function to assist in therapy of many kinds. The military has developed an animatronic dog used to help train medics to care for live military working dogs and their handlers. Researchers from MIT, Boston Dynamics, are testing robot dogs that take the vital signs of patients. Medical communities have even welcomed clinical uses for robot dogs. There are robot dogs making their way into hospitals for treatment and therapy with diseases like Alzheimer’s. These robots are designed with fur, tails, paws, and other features that mimic the look of a small lap dog. They also have animatronic features and sensors like if they sense the movement of the patient, they may blink, wag their tail, or make gentle sounds. The big difference between robot dogs and live animals is the expense of caring for the live animal.      


ROBOTIC PETS AND MEMORY CARE: Researchers at University of Utah developed a procedure for using robotic pets with older adults with dementia that uses a low-cost robotic pet, establishes ideal session lengths, and identifies common participant responses to the pets to aid in future research. Researchers have already begun to study the interaction between people with dementia and robotic pets. They met with five people between 82 and 87 years old living in long-term care facilities who experienced severe cognitive impairment. In two short sessions, they brought out either a robotic dog or a cat in a pet carrier. They would take note of the interactions and observe their responses with the robotic pet. “In recreational therapy, we always talk about providing person-centered care,” Rhonda Nelson, University of Utah researcher says. “So, it’s not really about what I think about an activity. If somebody enjoys it and it brings happiness to them, then it’s really about what they think about it.” More research is needed to determine the optimal session length.


* For More Information, Contact:   

Katie Chen, Media Relations                          Elizabeth Valente-Pigato, Media Relations

Stanford Children’s Health                             Stanford Children’s Health         

(650) 465-4872                                               (650) 269-5401

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